Updated: Apr 14, 2021
In this post we will show you how to improve the grind quality of your budget coffee grinder and therefore the taste of your brewed cup of coffee, with one nifty little trick. This applies not only to the Hario coffee grinder but all other similar grinders, electric blade grinders and even the very popular Baratza Encore coffee grinder and other similar electric coffee grinders.
Who is this post for?
So you have been using your budget hand coffee grinder or electric coffee grinder in your daily coffee making routine and discovered that grinding fresh coffee makes a huge difference to a coffee's taste. You are also fascinated by the wide range of choices and subtle differences in flavour profiles of global speciality coffees on offer these days.
Well so far so good, but now you wonder if it's possible to get the best possible taste of coffee with your coffee gear? The short answer is yes. Without spending a bomb on an expensive coffee gear? Thankfully, the answer is yes again!
Background: Coffee Brewing Basics
All other things being equal, the top 3 factors which impact the taste of a freshly brewed cup of coffee are as follows, in that order of importance:
If you would like to learn what factors are involved in choosing the best coffee beans for you, make sure to check out our in-depth post on How To Choose The Best Coffee Beans
This post tackles the topic of grind quality. At the end of this post we will share some more details about the underlying theory and some practical recommendations of renowned coffee experts.
Lastly, if you would like to learn more about the water quality aspect, make sure to check out our post on Is distilled water, RO water or purified water better for coffee makers?
The $10 Hack for improving grind quality
For this hack you will need to rummage around your kitchen for a cake flour / powdered sugar sieve or buy a new one. They come in many shapes and forms. Here's one example:
After grinding the coffee for your chosen brew method, transfer the ground coffee to the sieve and sift your coffee through the finest mesh over a piece of kitchen paper roll or any suitable container/plate.
As an example if you use 20g of ground coffee in this sieve, about 1-2g of fines should pass through the sieve. The more the fines, the more inaccurate is your grinder for the chosen grind size. These are coffee fines which add additional bitterness to a brewed cup of coffee. The fines can be discarded.
You can now proceed to brew your cup of coffee with the remaining coffee grinds from the sieve and enjoy the sweet taste of your hard work.
Which sieve to buy?
When we looked through the Amazon India marketplace, we found 3 different type to be suitable for our purposes. All three types have been extensively tested by STB staff over a period of several weeks and across several manual coffee brewing methods. We found all three types to be reasonably effective for our purposes, and for the money! Depending on your location, you can select any one which is closest to any of these.
Price when tested ₹300 | $4
Price when tested ₹250 | $3
Price when tested ₹750 | $10
In Conclusion: Why Does This Hack Work?
If you have been making coffee for a while, you would be aware that we need to grind coffee according to the size recommended for our chosen brewing method for best tasting results. The picture below depicts grind sizes from Coarse to Medium to Fine as per different brewing methods.
However, nothing is perfect in this world, unfortunately that includes coffee grinders. Regardless of the price and sophistication level of your grinder, every grinder will also generate finer and coarser grind particles in addition to your chosen grind size. The proportion of these finer and coarser coffee particles will determine the end result of your hard work in brewing a cup of coffee.
The presence of these finer and coarser particles in our coffee grind results in what is called an unbalanced cup of coffee. From a taste perspective, this can be described as a coffee with presence of disportionate bitter and sour taste notes in the brewed cup. As if our life wasn't hard enough already!
To keep the excitement going, knowledgeable coffee scientists choose to display this as a bell curve, called a Coffee Grind Distribution Curve.
(Source/Further Reading: Sympatec.com)
Fines have have a lot of surface area, and not a lot of volume. This means that all of their coffee flavour is pretty much instantly accessible to water. Compare this to a large coffee grind (a boulder) where the vast majority of the flavour is hidden away inside the grind and you’ll quickly see why grind size is such a big deal.
- Matt Perger, World Brewers Cup 2012 Champion and owner of Barista Hustle
Matt was sieving all fines below 250 microns for his winning pour-over cup at the championship. In the recipe shared in this blog post, we target fines below 300 to 400 microns to get a better tasting cup.
If you are truly excited by the remarkable improvements this hack makes to your daily cuppa and want to go full commando on coffee sifting techniques, a company called Kruve makes a professional version of coffee sieve suitable for home use - The Kruve Sifter, which comes with several mesh sizes and even a grind size scale.
Lastly, if you thought this post was useful, please do like and share it with your coffee lovers community.
Do follow us on our social media channels, (although to be honest, we barely get enough time to create new content here). However, all is not lost yet, you can keep track of coffee news and get new post alerts through our social channels. If you have any questions, or would like to tell us about anything we overlooked in this post, feel free to reach out to us.